The Independent, 5 October 2011

The thing is that if you’re reading this at your desk, you could be in grave peril. A new survey, conducted by office supply firm Viking, has shown that our working environments are filled with germs. From our keyboards to our phones, our desks seem to be on a par with plague pits and leper colonies. Of course, they might be exaggerating the risks in order to flog you some new, germ-free office supplies, but better safe than sorry.

Two thirds of our keyboards apparently have germs lurking within them, which is a shocking statistic only in so far as that means one third of us must be typing on keyboards shrink-wrapped in plastic while wearing Hazmat suits. Because surely everything has germs on it, especially us. That’s why Typhoid Mary was a person and not an office chair.

Whenever we touch the keys of a phone or a computer, we’re transferring bacteria around. And some of us are worse offenders than others: lawyers, accountants and computer staff were revealed to be the most unhygienic of all. Though perhaps they just share keyboards the most. And even they were still one up from social workers, who were most likely to have mouldy food on their desks.

Assuming this isn’t some sort of grimy protest, this should surely help the social workers if they decide to ask for a pay rise. Unless they are kept cruelly short of bins in the austerity era, they seem to be the profession most likely to start eating and then have to abandon their lunch midway through. And that lunch seems most likely to start growing mould at speed, which suggests they could do with some windows and heating too.

Apparently two-thirds of us admit to eating lunch at our desks and then not cleaning up afterwards. Viking called this ‘staggering’. I would call it ‘fair enough, depending on the lunch’. If you spilled soup all over your laptop and left it to form a crust, that is undeniably revolting. But if you lost biscuit crumbs under the space bar, that’s just how life goes sometimes. No-one will catch diphtheria from a crumb, and you can always have it as a snack later.

So if you want to avoid the germs of your co-workers as the flu season approaches, there’s only one truly safe way to work: from home, ideally from bed. It’s for your own good. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.